As soon as President Trump nominated Gina Haspel to become CIA director, the specter of the United States’ use of torture, would again be raised. The CIA used what it called at the time, “enhanced interrogation techniques” but stopped about a decade ago.
While many in Congress will be looking to ask pointed questions of Haspel about the practice, Trump, while a candidate for President stated that “torture works” and that he wanted to bring back outlawed techniques like waterboarding and “much worse.”
In 2002, Haspel was in charge of a secret “black site” prison in Thailand where detainees were subject to abusive interrogation techniques. In a 6,700-page classified report on the CIA’s interrogation programs, the Senate Intelligence Committee documented among other things what agency contractors and personnel did at the site to Abu Zubaydah—a Saudi-born Palestinian citizen accused of a “key role” in al-Qaeda, including possible advance knowledge of major attacks—and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri—a Saudi national suspected of involvement in al-Qaeda’s bombing of the American destroyer USS Cole in 2000. (Both are now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where they are considered “high value” detainees.)
The use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques—including walling, attention grasps, slapping, facial hold, stress positions, cramped confinement, white noise and sleep deprivation—continued “in varying combinations, 24 hours a day, for 17 straight days,” through August 20, 2002. When Abu Zubaydah was left alone during this period, he was placed in a stress position, left on the waterboard with a cloth over his face, or locked in one of two confinement boxes. According to the cables, Abu Zubaydah was also subjected to the waterboard “2-4 times a day … with multiple iterations of the watering cycle during each application.”
The “aggressive phase of interrogation” continued until August 23, 2002. Over the course of the entire 20-day “aggressive phase of interrogation,” Abu Zubaydah spent a total of 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours) in the large (coffin size) confinement box and 29 hours in a small confinement box, which had a width of 21 inches, at depth of 2.5 feet, and a height of 2.5 feet. The CIA interrogators told Abu Zubaydah that the only way he would leave the facility was in the coffin-shaped confinement box.
According to the daily cables from DETENTION SITE GREEN, Abu Zubaydah frequently “cried,” “begged,” “pleaded,” and “whimpered,” but continued to deny that he had any additional information on current threats to, or operatives in, the United States.
By August 9, 2002, the sixth day of the interrogation period, the interrogation team informed CIA Headquarters that they had come to the “collective preliminary assessment” that it was unlikely Abu Zubaydah “had actionable new information about current threats to the United States.” On August 10, 2002, the interrogation team stated that it was “highly unlikely” that Abu Zubaydah possessed the information they were seeking. …
DETENTION SITE GREEN personnel also informed CIA Headquarters that it was their assessment that the application of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was “approach[ing] the legal limit.” The chief of CTC [the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center], Jose Rodriguez, responded:
Strongly urge that any speculative language as to the legality of given activities or, more precisely, judgment calls as to their legality vis-a-vis operational guidelines for this activity agreed upon and vetted at the most senior levels of the agency, be refrained from in written traffic (email or cable traffic). Such language is not helpful.
CIA personnel at the site were disturbed at the treatment of Abu Zubaydah and their reactions were worthy of note in cable traffic to Washington. Several members of the team were reduced to tears at the effect of the continued waterboarding when they all felt that he didn’t have any further useful information.
The cable also stated that several CIA employees would probably ask to be reassigned from this posting. And that many questioned the legality and futility of continuing this.
It won’t ease on the questions, but as the head of the site, Haspel can point to all of the cable traffic originating the site and make the argument that she was in favor of stopping the enhanced interrogations. It is going to make for an interesting confirmation hearing.
To read the entire article from Government Executive, click here:
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